Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Stan Cox

Ecosphere Fellow

Stan did his graduate work in plant breeding at Iowa State and performed the field research phase (on sorghum) at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Patancheru, India. After graduation in 1983, Stan worked for 13 years as a wheat geneticist for the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Manhattan, Kansas. There, he worked developing new disease-resistant wheat germplasm using hybrids between wheat and its wild ancestral species. Since joining The Land Institute in 2000, Stan has been working on developing perennial sorghum. Read Stan’s “Interview with a Plant Scientist”.

In 2020, Stan transitioned into a new position as an Ecosphere Fellow.


What’s most inspiring about your position at The Land Institute?
When a plant lives through the winter (i.e., it’s perennial) and grows up to be a more productive, crop-like plant than its perennial predecessors!

What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at The Land Institute?
To take field notes, I walk by every row of sorghum in every field nursery I have out there. This summer, it’s an 11-mile walk.

What drew you to work at The Land Institute?
Working on a problem that isn’t just patching over agricultural problems but is transforming agriculture.

What else are you passionate about outside of work?
Provoking a discussion of how to get beyond capitalism and the destructive growth on which it depends, and how to ensure sufficiency for everyone.

If you were to write a book, what would it be about?
I’ve written four: on the food and medical industries; air conditioning; rationing; and (un)natural disasters. The topics of my books all relate to the previous question about my passions outside of work.

What’s your motto / favorite quote?
I like Dorothy Parker’s line, “You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.”

Oh, and the best professional advice I ever got was from my grad school friend Dan Rodgers, who said, “Find something nobody else is doing, and do it better than anyone else.” Now that’s a can’t-fail strategy!


Authored or Co-authored Scientific Publications

Agriculture and Biodiversity Loss: Genetic Engineering and the Second Agricultural Revolution
Breeding Perennial Grain Crops (part 1 of 3)
Breeding Perennial Grain Crops (part 2 of 3)
Breeding Perennial Grain Crops (part 3 of 3)
Crop Domestication and the First Plant Breeders
Ending 10,000 years of Conflict Between Agriculture and Nature
Increased Food and Ecosystem Security via Perennial Grains
Missing Domesticated Plant Forms: Can Artificial Selection Fill the Gap?
New Roots for Ecological Intensification
Response to Selection in the Initial Stages of a Perennial Sorghum Breeding Program
Plant Breeding for Harmony Between Agriculture and the Environment
Powdery Mildew Resistant Wheat Germplasm
Progress in Breeding Perennial Grains
Prospects for Developing Perennial Grains
Shrinking the Agricultural Economy Will Pay Big Dividends
The Mirage of Genetic Engineering

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